Wednesday, 2 September 2015
"My name is Mohamed and I’m from Dera’a, Syria. My family, friends and neighbours know me as 'Abul Ward,' Arabic for 'father of the roses.' I got this name since I was known for my garden filled with flowers, and because I loved to give everyone a flower that passed by my house.
In early 2011, I had been a fire fighter for the Syrian government for 13 years. When my neighbours’ kids were caught, tortured, and thrown into a prison for writing ‘anti-government’ slogans on the walls of their school, I defected. How could I stand to support a system that supports torturing innocent children? I was the first to leave my team, but soon after, most of my squad defected behind me.
A couple weeks after I defected I was stopped at a checkpoint by the regime. They took me to a state prison for two months. My experiences of torture in a sweltering pitch-black confined room with over 100 people are memories that will scar my past but empower my future. For every moldy piece of bread I was forced to eat, for every kick and punch I got, and for my fellow inmates who didn’t make it out alive, I am living my life more fully for it.
From the time I was hung by hands for four days straight, to when my heart stopped for three minutes before I was revived, all the suffering I experienced made me stronger and more resilient. Now I am a White Helmet volunteer. After I left prison, I heard about these men and women who were rescuing people from under the rubble, and were also fighting fire. I knew this was the place for me.
For the past year we have been saving lives and pulling people from under the destruction of their homes and buildings, but we can’t save everyone. Destruction, pain and heartbreak can last for a lifetime, but beautiful things may appear in the wake of tragedy. Once, we buried a few young men killed by barrel bombs. We buried the men a day after their murder; when our team and family returned to the gravesite a few weeks later, we were surprised to find no foul stench and the most beautiful flowers growing there.
When I think about the Syrian struggle, I can’t help but think of my favourite flower, the orchid. The orchid is a symbol of the Syrian people, for regardless of what season it is, the flower is able to survive. This flower demonstrates strength, resilience and beauty, just like those Syrians who are still struggling for freedom peacefully despite all the obstacles.
My dream for my beloved Syria is for it not to be covered with barrel bombs, destruction, war and blood, but with flowers, from my city of Dera’a all the way to the north of Syria and the border of Turkey. Every flower will represent our brothers and sisters for their strength, resilience and beautiful memories for reaching a better tomorrow."